Why did Voldemort kill Harry Potter’s parents?

Kayla Harrington
Voldemort and Harry Potter's parents

Lord Voldemort set the events of the Harry Potter franchise in motion one fateful night, by trying to kill the young boy and his family. But, why did Voldemort kill Harry Potter’s parents in the first place?

The deaths of James and Lily Potter sent shockwaves through the Wizarding world. Still, the exact reasons for why Lord Voldemort attacked them is revealed slowly across the course of the Harry Potter movies.

Though it’s not spoken about out loud at the beginning of the series, Voldemort‘s actions against Harry’s parents are why The Boy Who Lived came to be. With each new movie in the series, it becomes clearer why the Dark Lord is hunting this innocent young wizard.

So, why did Voldemort kill Harry Potter’s parents? Could things have turned out differently for James and Lily? And what were the ramifications of this cruel act? We’ve got it all covered here.


Why did Voldemort kill Harry Potter’s parents?

Lord Voldemort killed Harry Potter’s parents due to a prophecy that claimed a “Chosen One” would be his downfall, which he assumed to be Harry. His parents died trying to defend him.

Severus Snape overhead a prophecy made by Divination Professor, Sybill Trelawney, that implied Harry would cause Voldemort’s demise. The prophecy read: “The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches… born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies… and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not… and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives.”

lily potter defending harry from voldemort

Unfortunately for the Potters, Snape overhears this huge piece of information before he decides to become one of Dumbledore’s spies. He shares the information with Voldemort without realizing how detrimental it would be to them.

The Potters were protected by the Fidelius charm, a particularly powerful spell that conceals a place or person entirely. It’s this magic that keeps several locations, such as Grimmauld Place, protected throughout the series.

The only way through this spell was through a Secret Keeper. Many believed the Potter’s secret keeper would be one of James’ closest friends, most likely one of the Marauders. This is why so many people thought Sirius Black betrayed the Potters to Voldemort during the events of The Prisoner of Azkaban (the best Harry Potter movie, by the way).

However, the Secret Keeper was actually Peter Pettigrew. James’ friend betrayed the Potters and revealed their location to Voldemort, enabling him to enter their home.

What spell did Voldemort use to kill the Potters?

Voldemort used the Killing Curse, Avada Kedavra, to kill Lily and James Potter. He also attempted to use it on Harry, too. However, due to Lily’s act of love while shielding Harry, the final spell rebounded, killing Voldemort instead and leaving Harry with his scar.

It was only thanks to his Horcruxes that Voldemort was able to survive as a weakened spirit — the form we see him in until the end of The Goblet of Fire.

Why didn’t Voldemort kill Neville Longbottom’s parents?

The most interesting part of the prophecy is the fact Voldemort chose to kill the Potters over another Wizard family who also had a son at the end of July: The Longbottoms.

Matthew Lewis as Neville Longbottom in The Deathly Hallows

A lot of Harry Potter fans locked onto the phrase “The Dark Lord will mark the chosen one as his equal,” which is a big hint as to why Voldemort would choose Harry over Neville. Essentially, Voldemort respected Harry’s parents’ and knew they were a huge threat against him during his first rise to power. This led him to regard Harry as his equal even though he was a baby.

He may also have considered Harry’s half-blood status to be more significant, considering Voldemort came from similar parentage. In contrast, Neville was pure-blood wizard.

There’s also a popular theory that both Neville and Harry are the Chosen One, as both of them are integral to killing him in The Deathly Hallows. Neville destroys the final Horcrux (Nagini), while Harry duels Voldemort.

Voldemort misunderstood the prophecy and set up his own downfall

Ultimately, Voldemort’s attempt to stop the prophecy ended up being what led to his downfall. Killing Lily turned Snape against him forever, meaning his entire operation had a spy on the inside from the very beginning of the film series.

Young Severus Snape in Harry Potter

It also propelled Harry and Neville with the determination to face against him, while also giving Dumbledore and the rest of the wizarding world time to prepare for his return while he didn’t have a body.

Additionally, his frequent attempts to return to full form in the first three books and films are massive drivers for Harry in preparing for the final fight. Harry’s bravery is largely forged by his repeated interactions with Tom Riddle.

How many people has Voldemort killed?

In total, we know Voldemort killed 19 people, a bunch of goblins, and he has an army of corpses, too. Many of his murders predate the movies, though, and we learn of these through the books. Then, there’s the countless victims who died at the hands of Voldemort’s accomplices, through his cruel orders.

Here are all the people Lord Voldemort directly killed:

  • Tom Riddle Senior – A 16-year-old Tom Riddle killed his father as revenge for the way he abandoned his family
  • Mary and Thomas – Tom’s grandparents were killed at the same time as his father. He did this as a means to eradicating his Muggle roots
  • James and Lily Potter – Killed on that fateful night, with Voldemort hoping to prevent the prophecy that would bring his downfall
  • Alastor Moody – Ambushed by Voldemort in The Deathly Hallows, when attempting to transport Harry Potter from Privet Drive to the Burrow
  • Hepzibah Smith – Was poisoned by a young Tom Riddle so he could obtain Hufflepuff’s cup and Slytherin’s locket
  • Albanian peasant – Tom Riddle killed an innocent Muggle to turn Rowena Ravenclaw’s diadem into a Horcrux
  • Homeless Muggle – Riddle did the same to another homeless Muggle to turn the locket into a horcrux
  • Amelia Bones and her parents – Voldemort killed Mr. and Mrs. Bones in the First Wizarding War. He then came back for Amelia years later, when she was Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement
  • Dorcas Meadowes – Little is known about Dorcas’ death, apart from the fact she was killed by Voldemort for being a member of the Order of the Phoenix
  • A goblin family – Killed during the First Wizarding War
  • Bertha Jorkins – Voldemort interrogated and killed this Ministry of Magic employee with the Killing Curse. This helped him turn Nagini into a Horcrux
  • Frank Bryce – The groundskeeper of the Riddle household was killed when he overheard Voldemort’s plan to kill Harry Potter
  • Charity Burbage – Formerly the Professor of Muggle Studies at Hogwarts, Burbage wrote an article in the Daily Prophet about the Second Wizarding War. Voldemort killed her for it
  • Rufus Scrimgeour – Part of the Ministry of Magic, Scrimgeour refused to tell Voldemort the hiding place of Harry Potter. He was killed for his disobedience
  • Mykew Gregorovitch – Was struck by the Killing Curse as Voldemort searched for the Elder Wand
  • Gellert Grindelwald – Another who refused to give up the location of the Elder Wand, so Voldemort killed him in prison
  • Goblins and guards – A load of goblins were summoned to Malfoy Manor after Harry and his friends broke into Gringtott’s Bank. They were all killed by a furious Voldemort
  • Inferi – Those corpses that attack Harry in The Half-Blood Prince are all victims of Voldemort’s, too

One of the biggest and most emotional deaths in the whole franchise is that of Severus Snape. Although this was absolutely Voldemort’s responsibility, it was actually Nagini who laid the killer blow on our hidden hero.

Interestingly, Voldemort also kind of killed himself, if you think about it. When he tried to use the Killing Curse against Harry, the true master of the Elder Wand, in the grand finale, the spell rebounded and struck Voldemort down.

We’ll have to wait and see if the new Harry Potter TV series delves deeper into the significance of the Potters’ death. Until then, here’s what we know about Harry Potter houses, Harry Potter books, and streaming the Harry Potter movies.